Tarte Airbuki Blahblah Brush Review + Usage Tips

02 Feb

The full name of this brush is the Airbuki Bamboo Powder Foundation Brush. If you can’t tell by my shortcut title, I am of the opinion that this brush has waaay too long of a name. Tarte products in general have names that are too damn long and descriptive to the point of being flawed. The brush’s short stature makes the superfluously long name all the more ironically humorous. The Airbuki (et al.) reminds me of the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa – which is Hawaiian for “triggerfish with a snout like a pig” (and colloquially known as “that Hawaiian fish with the really long name”) – where the name is almost longer than the actual thing. Oh wait, never mind.



All joking about the name aside, I am quite fond of this little brush, though that may be because it’s the first and only kabuki in my brush arsenal.  **Edit: 4/21/15 As I’ve used it more and more, I’ve discovered that i abso-freaking-lutely love this brush. Spoiler aside…. I’ve been eyeing this brush for a quite a while already. It’s been tossed-in and removed from my Sephora cart multiple times in the past year plus. Recently, while browsing through The Non-Blonde’s blog, I came across her compaison/review of the Airbuki which (unfortunately?) convinced me to bite the bullet and finally get it. I mean come on, the Airbuki is being favorably compared to a Hakuhodo! If that’s not good enough, I don”t know what is. Here’s a humu-humu fish in case you were curious. It’s quite pretty.

From: WakikiAquarium.Org

First Look
The first thing you’ll notice is how adorable it is. 20150202_163121_3 The handle is made of smooth varnished bamboo and capped by a gold colored metal that has “Tarte” etched into the side.

Sorry it's a bit dirty.

Sorry it’s a bit dirty.

Below is a size comparison to a pen cap so you can get an idea of how short it is.

Small and Round = Cute

Small + Round = Cute

Speaking of cute, here’s a interesting video. Feel free to skip it. It has nothing to do with the review but it is interesting. He speaks slow as fuck so take advantage of the speed options.

What You Get
A short little kabuki with synthetic bristles and a handle made of bamboo. It’s $26 which isn’t bad at all compared to other Kabuki brushes. I know some people were miffed by the size of it but it’s not a issue for me. It’s also made in China if that is of any importance to you. If it was made in Japan it would probably be triple the price, made of goat hair and be amazing enough to cure cancer. JK. But at least it’s not $81 like the Hakuhodo G543.

Price Comparison to other Kabuki like brushes for foundation/powder:
Real Techniques Retractable Kabuki Brush is $9.99
Sigma’s F80 Flat Kabuki is $24
BareMineral’s Full Coverage Kabuki Brush is $28
Too Faced’s Retractable Kabuki Brush is $34
Sephora Collection Pro Kabuki Brush #43 is $36
Inglot’s Makeup Brush 25SS is $41
Make Up For Ever’s 124 Powder Kabuki Brush is $52
Hourglass’s Retractable Kabuki Brush is $52
NARS’s Botan Kabuki Brush is a whopping $70

Details of the Brush
The brush altogether is about two inches tall. The handle is a little over 1.5 inches and the hairs are very short at just over half an inch. Like all kabuki brushes it is completely round with a wide, flat base diameter of almost one and a half inches.  The top of the brush is flat but the edges are gently sloped so the overall brush head looks like a flattened dome. The dye of the hairs reminds me of an inverse honey badger’s head: the top side of the brush is black while the rest is beigy-light colored. Both even have a short-haired fuzzy appearance! Both brush and honey badger are also quite cute, though this brush is inanimate and non-vicious.

What a cute little thing you are. But i bet you give no fucks.

The bristles are so densely packed, it’s almost a solid mass of fuzzy cushioning. I imagine that really short otter fur might feel something like this (otter pelts can have up to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch). The synthetic bristles remind me of goat hair brushes. it feels soft to the finger tips and palm but still has a definite texture on the more sensitive skin of the face and neck. This brush isn’t the softest you will ever get your hands on, but the hair is so dense  and plush that it feels luxurious. It’s been a struggle trying to not let other people catch me absent mindlessly stroking it. My s.o. has already given me the raised eyebrows a handful of times already.

Weirdness aside, this brush is excellent at applying all sorts of face makeup because the design is *genius*. The flat top covers larges areas quickly and efficiently while the edges make it maneuverable in nooks and crooks. Some people have complained about not being able to maneuver the Airbuki into the smaller crannies of their face (eyes, nose, etc.) and are forced to switch to using a second, smaller brush to reach those areas. Complaints like these baffle me. I just tilt the brush a bit and use the sloped edges; there’s not much rocket science to it. The resulting finish is as close as you can get to airbrushing without an actual airbrush. It’s so fast and easy it almost feels wrong. You’ll find your brain asking, “how did i get such a nice finish with so little effort?” I remember the days of using a duo-fiber stippling brush to achieve a airbrushed finish. I blame Michelle Phan and Cassandra Bankson circa 2010 or whichever Youtuber it was that loved using the stippling brush. I specifically remember one of them saying more dots = more pixels = higher resolution = better looking finish. Anyhow, the end result via stippling was really nice but it took forever. If i had a penny for every dot-dab-and-tap i did, I’d be rich.

The Airbuki provides a shortcut to a smooth, flawless finish. Because the bristles are so densely packed, there is pretty much no way for this brush to get deformed from – say – being squashed too long in a makeup bag. The hairs will move out of place a bit but i can reshape them back to a perfect circle by making a ring with my thumb and index finger. As a combined result of this property and its ability to multi-task, the Airbuki has earned a permanent spot in my travel bag. If you are worried about it deforming, you can grab a hair tie, wrap it around the handle twice, then slide it up and around the bristles to compact them into tight circle.

The Bad
It takes way too fucking long to dry. Granted its winter, but it’s Southern California “Winter”. Brushes should not take a full 2-3 days to dry after a shampooing. But, this one does. Fortunately I can daily clean this brush with alcohol (hairs are synthetic, it won’t hurt/dry/damage) and sticking it under a UV-C lamp. It’d be a pain to deep clean more than once every other week. If you have your heart set on using the Airbuki every single day and don’t have a jug of alcohol cleaning solution, you may have to get three separate ones.

**Edit 5/19/15 Call me an idiot. I’ll whole-heartedly agree with you… I cant believe i only started doing this in the last week. I now scrub my brush against a dry towel to get rid of almost all possible excess moisture before putting it up to dry. I literally just rub it against a  (CLEAN) bath towel in circular buffing motions, then repeat on other dry sections until the fabric no longer turns darker from moisture. If wash it early in the afternoon, and towel it, it’ll be dry by the next morning.

If you have dry flaky, skin, some of those flakes are going to get scrubbed off in the process of buffing foundation on. Those flakes will get caught in the bristles and make it look something like the 2nd picture I took of the brush (with the red-black keyboard in the background).  Yup, it gets a little ugly.

The hairs aren’t immaculately arranged. I’m not sure if you can tell in the second pic or not, but there’s are a couple of beige hairs that are longer than the rest. They’re aren’t pokey but they might induce rage in a perfectionist.

I can do all my face makeup with this one brush which is pretty fantastic. Though Tarte recommends using this with powders, I have found that it gives liquids and creams an airbrushed finish as well. I can do my whole face with a liquid foundation first, then buff on a mineral foundation to set or give more coverage in problem areas. Alternatively I can finish off with a setting powder. The sloped sides are capable of giving a sharp definition so I’m able to use it with contouring products as long as i use a light hand. I can use this brush to apply blush and bronzer too. If it’s a heavy pigmented blush, like NARS’s, I’ll load the brush up with a translucent powder first, then tap the brush into the blusher. The translucent powder diffuses the otherwise intense, heavily-flushed look this brush would give. If I’m using build-able blushes then i can be more lah-di-dah about my application. If you’re using pastel asian blushes, go right ahead with the brush.

No matter what product you are using though, you’ll want to apply things with feather-light pressure. The less skin you move, the better. Doing so will get the best results and that coveted airbrushed finish. A lot of people have the tendency to moosh makeup onto their own face as hard as they please, but be super gentle when applying makeup to others. It is especially important, with this brush, to use the latter type of application (though you should actually be doing your own makeup like that all the time). Do not press this into you face like you might do with blending brushes or you actually will scrub your makeup off. This brush is so dense and solid that it pushes the makeup around, instead of evenly distributing it, if you use higher pressure. I watched my sister steal and use this brush. Karma kicked in quickly: she failed epically. It was actually kind of funny. She looked like she was trying to push makeup into her pores and the resulting finish was cakey in some places with bald patches in others. The verdict: she hated this brush, and you will too if you use improper application technique. Light strokes/circles will get you the airbrush finish that this brush promises, guaranteed. There is an exception to this light handed rule though. If you want extra, heavy-full coverage on certain spots, you’ll want to use a medium-pressured stamping like motion over that area, then buff the edges to blend.

As far as powders go, it’s excellent with loose powders in jars with grinders/sifters, or “hard-compact” pressed ones. Examples of the first include the BareMineral’s signature Mineral Veil foundation as well as Halo Hydrating Perfecting powders by Smashbox. As long as you can control the amount, you get an awesome application. Loose powders stick to the brush very well, but they desert the brush for your face once it lands on skin. It takes minimal effort to buff it in  to get an even, streak free cover. Aside from foundations, I love using this brush to apply my Yellow Color Correcting Halo Powder after I’ve applied my foundation base. I grind out the amount i need, then sweep and buff it across my foundation to set it and correct any dark spots or redness. The full coverage effect of the brush allows me to hide these blemishes with less effort (& time) than if i use a traditional, fluffy, all over powder brush. With one dusting of a fluffy brush, the effect is minimal and flattering, with one pass of the Airbuki, my Halo Yellow powder becomes freaking god-send. It maximizes the coverage of the powder so that the yellow can do its job of color correction and yet somehow, it doesn’t change the color of my actual foundation.

Make Up For Ever’s Duo Matte Powder is what i would consider a hard-compact foundation: where the product is held together pretty strongly. Swiping and swirling the brush to pick up product does NOT kick up a whole bunch of by-product powder. In determining hard pressed powders, my rule of thumb is if you feel like the product won’t crack and crumble with a drop on carpet, its game for the Airbuki.  Most drugstore pressed powder foundations are hard-compacts. I used this brush with a cheap Maybelline Dream Matte Powder and it looked pretty damn good. As many of you may know, the application tool makes all the difference.Nice tools (+ a reasonable amount of skill) = nice results . This brush is worth the splurge in my book  because it allows any hard-pressed powder to give the higher end equivalents a long, hard run for their money. As a warning, I have read a couple blogs where people were disheartened because they only got cakey, medium coverage at best. All I can do is scratch my head, shrug my shoulders and pat them sympathetically. One major difference may be a result of the skin-base that the foundation goes over. I always have a hydrator and sunscreen on before i apply my foundation. Or they could be trying to scrub makeup onto the skin like i have warned you not to do.

You *can* use the Airbuki to pick up and apply “soft” pressed powders but creates an absolute mess. The brush is so packed and firm that it crushes/destroys the surface of product if you try to swipe and swirl. So much product will be wasted. Examples of soft-pressed includes the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders (which get wrecked), Smashbox’s Photo Filter Creamy Powder Foundation, and BECCA pressed compact products (which, uh… crack and crumble). Rule of thumb for determining soft-pressed products: If you’re afraid of damaging it or creating a whole bunch of dust, even when you use a fluffy brush, it’s considered soft pressed.

The Airbuki works beautifully with creams like RCMA’s cream foundation as well as cream-to-powder foundations. The cream sits on top of the bristles and every last bits gets transferred to my skin, where it turns into power and the rest is history. The only example i have is the now discontinued UD Cream to Powder Foundation. I haven’t the privilege to try this with Hourglass’s Immaculate Liquid to Powder foundation yet so no verdict there.

This brush is also wonderful for applying “thicker’ liquid foundations or gels. What i mean by thicker texture are foundations that can kind of keep their shape on the back of my hand without “running” off. Examples include Tarte’s own Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Full Coverage Foundation SPF 15 (see what i mean by descriptive to a flaw?), bareMineral’s Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream, Missha’s Signature Wrinkle Filler BBCream, Kat Von D’s Tattoo Lock-It Foundation, MAC Studio Fix Fluid and Laura Mercier’s Silk Cream Foundation etc. I am an inherently lazy person. Leave it to a lazy person to find a way to skip the “put a pump of foundation onto the back of your hand then use a brush to pick it up’ step. With thicker foundations I just squirt a half pump directly onto the Airbuki, dot to distribute, then glide the brush over the skin to buff and blend it out. I then go back and do another half pump – or more as needed – to cover more problematic areas with previously mentioned stamping motions. Normally you don’t want to put or foundation directly onto the brush because it’ll get eaten up by the brush hairs. Not so with the Airbuki. It’ a solid mass remember? The foundation just sits there, chilling on a couch of synthetic hairs until its ready to be dispersed.

breMinerall's Complexion Rescue Gel Cream. It looks like poo, lumps and well but i like it a lot.

bareMinerall’s Complexion Rescue Gel Cream. It looks like poo, lumps and all.

I don’t recommend using this with runnier, liquid formulas. If it runs down and around the back of your hand, it might get soaked up by this brush despite how i keep saying the brush is so dense it’s practically solid. Here’s an analogy: If thick foundations are whipped cream, thin foundations would be milk. Let’s say the brush is your chair cushion. If you spill milk, that milk is going to soak right into the cushion, while whipped cream will sit on to of the cushion long enough for you to wipe it off, leaving minimal to no staining. Stuff that i consider thin/runny includes Smashbox’s Liquid Halo, MAC’s Face and Body, Make Up For Ever’s Face and Body Liquid Makeup, UD’s Naked Skin Liquid Makeup and YSL’s Fusion Ink (but they recommend using fingers anyways). With thin liquid foundations this brush still gives a streak free finish but it takes longer to get full coverage. If you insist on using Airbuki with a thin formula (or if a thin formula happens to be your holy grail), i would use the Airbuki as a finishing brush. Distribute the foundation first with fingers or a paddle, then go in with the Airbuki like a stippling brush/sponge.

Face brushing & Exfoliation: (Edit 3/21/15) I still love this brush and i now have new uses for it. Let me back up a bit: I picked up a prescription of Tazorac which is a standard topical treatment for more severe acne, but it absolutely BURNED my skin. Shame on me for not patch testing first. The dermatologist did give a warning beforehand that it’s very strong and recommended that i start slow, applying it no more than once every two days, which was exactly what i did. Long story short after about 5 days and two applications my skin started  molting. Skin flakes everywhere. I couldn’t wear foundation or even bb cream because the finish was ridiculously patchy and dry. It didn’t matter how much moisture and hydration priming i did underneath the foundation, the end result made me look like a peach colored Groot. Enter the brush. Remember how i said a con of this brush was that it picks up skin flakes and that it’s not the softest brush you will ever feel? Well those traits are perfect for exfoliation and polishing. If your aim isn’t to apply color, you’ll be please at how excellent this brush is for *gently* scrubbing off pesky, texture-causing flakes. All i did was dampen the bristles a bit, then used a feather touch while rubbing circles over my face.  Note that I did wait until the skin and scabs had healed over but the dry skin was hanging around.

Side note: To all the dry skinned folks out there, i acknowledge your struggles and concede defeat. You people have it way worse than us oily-skin people. When we apply foundation, it may get shiny, oxidize, and slip-n-slide sooner, but at least we can get a smooth layer down in the first place. orz

Last Thoughts
1) I’m not sure why i made so many animal references in this post.
2) I really like this brush.
3) You should really get this brush if you have $26+tax to spare and you want a kick ass brush that can do your whole face in minimal time, but still look like a pro did it.
4) Shit. Now I’m curious about the other Tarte brushes which is bad because i will either A) be tempted to buy more or B) be disappointed that they aren’t as good as the Airbuki.

**2017 Update**
See how the Airbuki has held up, a little over two years later here!

1 Comment

Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Brush Reviews, On the Fence


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One response to “Tarte Airbuki Blahblah Brush Review + Usage Tips

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